Diver Jerry Wilhelmsson was out looking for a different shipwreck altogether off the south coast of the Åland islands (Finland’s autonomous Swedish-speaking islands between Stockholm and Helsinki) when he came across an incredible discovery. Sitting in front of him at a shallow depth was an unusually well-preserved 27 metre long shipwreck, complete with anchor, figurehead and hundreds of unopened bottles.
Wilhelmsson and his diving team Baltic Underwater Explorers now have permission to take some of the bottles back up to the surface in the hope that analysis will provide an explanation for where the mysterious wreck came from.
“It’s quite rare to find a wreck in this condition with cargo intact at a relatively shallow depth,” Magnus Melin of Baltic Underwater Explorers told The Local.
“The coolest thing must be the cargo hold with all the bottles. But the whole relatively small wreck, which has a figurehead, is very interesting. To me, the ship itself and its (currently unknown) story are the most interesting things.”
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Speaking to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, marine archaeologist Marcus Lindholm speculated that the ship’s style suggests it dates from between 1850 and 1870.
But a better way to know for certain is to analyze the contents of some of the hundreds of bottles still sitting unopened in cargo boxes on the wreck.
“We have contact with the local authorities and they’ll come up with a plan on how to continue. Initially some of the bottles will be salvaged to analyze their content,” diver Melin explained.
“We don’t know at the moment what will happen after that, but more non-destructive documentation will be done to identify the wreck.”
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The waters in and around Sweden’s Baltic coast are something of a hotbed for shipwreck finds.
In April, two shipwrecks dating back to at least the 1600s were found in central Stockholm next to the island of Skeppsholmen, once again by chance when divers were examining the seabed before a boating race.
And on a smellier note, in July Swedish scientists discovered what they believe to be 340-year-old cheese on board the wreck of the royal ship Kronan in the waters near Baltic island Öland.
The ship’s figurehead. Photo: Jerry Wilhelmsson